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Student Profile: Kikanza Nuri-Robins

May, 20th 2015

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How and when did you start sewing?    
My godmother tells me that I starting draping my dolls when I was very young.  At 13, I bargained for my first sewing machine. (You don’t have to give me anything else, All I want is a sewing machine.)  It was an old Kenmore that had two stitches — forward and backward.  My mother didn’t sew, but she set standards for the quality of my work.  She said that it had to look as good on the inside as it did on the outside, and if I spent my clothing allowance on fabric, whatever I made I was going to have to wear.  That meant I learned to finish seams, set in zippers, and  handwork button holes.  Right from the beginning I learned Quality and Excellence were presented to me as standards.

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Blue Faille Coat

April, 13th 2015

I made this coat a number of years ago for a Threads article – and I’d forgotten about it until I saw a blow-up photograph of it as a backdrop to an interview Kenneth King was doing with Judy Neukam (at the Threads offices).  So I dug it out, and have been enjoying wearing it ever since!

The Blue Faille Coat

The Blue Faille Coat

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Grey Lace Scarf by Alexandra Sojfer

March, 31st 2015

Every now and then, when I’m in Paris, I see something I just can’t live without.  It’s probably a good thing that it doesn’t happen too often, but this one grabbed me….

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I was out walking one chilly afternoon, and saw a number of beautiful scarves in the window of a boutique on the Boulevard Saint Germain.  I kept on walking, but on my way back, I couldn’t help but go in…and this is the one I fell in love with.  The scarf is a creation of Paris-based fashion house Alexandra Sojfer.

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Black Sequined Zipper Jacket

March, 22nd 2015

I found this wonderful Chanel fabric in Paris – it’s certainly far from the boucles that are more commonly associated with that name…and I decided to modify an old Vogue dress pattern to make a jacket that zips up the front.  And while it’s  pretty sparkly, I wear it a lot, even in the daytime….

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Vintage Trims & Buttons from Paris

March, 16th 2015

My most recent trip to Paris yielded a treasure trove of vintage trims and buttons.  They are now available in the SKC Store!  Check out the video below for an in-depth look at these one-of-a-kind pieces.

Student Profile: Leisa Stanton

March, 11th 2015

Throughout my twenty-five years of teaching couture sewing classes all over the United States I’ve crossed paths with so many amazing sewers. Now that I have an editorial platform, I’m delighted to to showcase some of my amazingly talented students! Up first is Leisa Stanton. After reading her profile, be sure to check out her extremely informative and inspiring sewing blog, A Challenging Sew.

Leisa Stanton

How and when did you start sewing?   
I started sewing after my youngest started school – nine years ago.  I’ve always drawn and painted,  but I quickly found that immersing myself for hours on end with oil paints was no longer an option with four young children.  Sewing was a natural creative progression, I love clothes and shoes but could never afford what I wanted to wear.

What’s your favorite sewing tool/piece of equipment?
My Japanese needles without a doubt. They are an absolute pleasure to hold and are thin enough to sew through almost any fabric with ease.

How much time do you have to sew?
On average, I would say three or four full days a week.  I started a sewing blog two years ago and like to have a variety of interesting works in progress as well as completed garments to show.  It pushes and inspires me to constantly evolve and try different and interesting techniques, which in turn makes sewing an endless pleasure.

Where do you go for fabrics?
I work part time at Mendel Goldberg creating content and curating their website, so a lot of my fabric comes from there, but I also love  B&J and Mood in NYC.  I recently discovered Max of General Diff when in Paris on Susan’s tour and am now trying desperately to find an plausible excuse to visit him once a year as well!!

What’s your favorite fabric to sew on?
I have a few, Guipure and Alecon lace for when I want to slow down and reconnect a little more to the sewing process, Cashmere for tailoring when I want something more complex and challenging and Boucle when the need for another Little French Jacket strikes!

Who is your favorite designer?
Without a doubt Alexander McQueen. The tailoring, the femininity, the complex edgy designs and unusual fabrics… an absolute genius.

What is your biggest inspiration?
Fabric – always.  Its a very liberating and often a challenging process, to buy the fabric first and then find the right pattern and one I have learnt so much from.

What is your favorite fashion book?
Alexander McQueens Savage Beauty and Madame Grès Sphinx of Fashion.

From a technical point of view, when you sew, what’s easiest?  What’s hardest?
Fit will always be the hardest. I struggle with that constantly – its such an essential skill and yet almost impossible to master when you sew and fit yourself.

And the easiest: hand sewing.  There is so much control and freedom with just a needle and thread.

What the favorite thing you’ve ever made?
I’ve not made it yet.  I like most of what I sew but there is always something I think I could have changed or sewn better… it’s a journey… but I know one day if I keep practicing, I will be good enough to create that piece.  That’s my motivation.

What’s your next sewing project?
I sew with Marfy patterns almost exclusively but have come out of my comfort zone to try Vogue V1440. Its a fairly complex jacket with multiple odd shaped pieces, and about twelve crazy inches of ease.  Its certainly giving me fitting practice, and reminding me why I don’t often buy these!

Whose personal style/wardrobe/image do you admire?
Georgina Chapman of Marchesa.  I don’t know anybody else who can wear lace with just the right amount of sass and elegance as she does.

Can you share with us a garment you’ve sewn and talk about your inspiration and process?
I have a picture in my sewing room of a Prada lace shirt that is simply beautiful.   Technically,  it’s a little challenging as there is no underlining or lining to hide the seams and the process of working through those issues appealed to me.

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I imagined making it with a nice fine Alecon lace and using French seams to keep the insides neat… but I kept being drawn back to a Prada re-embroidered Alecon lace at Mendel Goldberg that was made of cotton and substantially thicker than I had planned on buying.

I bought it anyway, wondering if it would be possible to hand sew the shirt in it’s entirety so I could control the seaming allowances inside and try out some new techniques.

For the pattern, I picked a well known and incredibly well drafted shirt called the Archer by Grainline and made a muslin first for fit and then a second test garment using a cheap nylon lace to work out any technical issues with the fashion fabric.

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In total, this shirt probably took a week to make, and I still cannot believe how wonderful it feels to wear.   The seaming is soft and flexible because of the hand stitching,  and the tiny hand bound seams are invisible on the outside and comfortable to wear on the inside.

This shirt is the very first garment that I had sewn intuitively from start to finish and because of that, I am keeping it on a hook in my sewing room as a reminder of how far I have come from that very first class with Susan three years ago –  a long, long way indeed!

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(For a more in depth look at the entire process of making this garment, go check out Leisa’s blog post.)

 

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The French Couture Jacket Class

January, 30th 2015

the couture french jacket

Fellow Sewers,

I’m delighted to announce the French Couture Jacket Class. In this course I’ll walk with you through the entire process of constructing one of the classic couture garments. I pour a lifetime of experience in to this course and truly believe you will find advice in it that you cannot get anywhere else. From paper pattern to finished jacket, you’ll see me make two jackets: one in a plain fabric and one in a fabric that requires matching.

Adapt the muslin for pattern use
Apply a wide range of hand stitches along the way
Quilt the lining to the fashion fabric
Work with elegant trims and buttons
Add hand-constructed pockets
Apply the finishing touches that a couture garment deserves

Once you’ve completed one jacket, I’m happy to say that this course includes separate instruction for a regular and patterned jacket, with a pattern we send to you in the mail to accommodate your choice! And there’s no doubt that the techniques and knowledge gained from this project will be applied to any others you tackle in the future.

For more future updates subscribe to our mailing list at the bottom of this page!

2015 Draping Classes

October, 23rd 2014

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The Draping Classes

Join Susan Khalje’s Paris-based colleague Julien Cristofoli for classes in the classic French method of draping—the moulage.

Each class will begin with the application of woven tapes (bolduc) onto the dress form— these tapes act as reference points to the corresponding lines that are drawn on muslin. Temporary design lines are then applied to the dress form, and the draping process begins. It is a fascinating and brilliantly effective approach, and Julien is a master of it.

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Mendel Goldberg

October, 6th 2014

Flowered Swiss lace and pink silk gazar.

Flowered Swiss lace and pink silk gazar.

I spent last week at Mendel Goldberg in New York, teaching a Classic French Jacket class. And yes, it was definitely like being in a candy store… you can imagine that students bought fabulous fabrics for the projects at hand, but clearly, future garments were in their sights as well…

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Charles James at the Menil Museum

September, 7th 2014

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The recently-closed Charles James exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum in New York isn’t the only examination of his work this year – A Thin Wall of Air: Charles James will be on display at the Menil Museum in Houston through September 7. While the Menil Museum exhibit closes this weekend, it’s worth a look if you’re in the area. And fortunately, a beautiful book accompanied the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibit – it’s well worth reading if you’re interested in knowing more about Charles James.

While far smaller and different in scope than the Met’s exhibit, the Houston presentation is charming and very personal. In addition to creating clothing for Mrs. de Menil, James designed furniture and interiors for the couple – wealthy French art collectors and patrons of the arts who spent much of their time in Houston (and built the well-respected museum bearing their name and housing their collections).

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Susan Khalje Couture Blog!

September, 1st 2014

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I’m writing to announce an exciting new part of our growing online platform: the Susan Khalje Couture blog! The success and appreciation for our first course (The Cocktail Dress) has been tremendous. In response, we want to broaden the reach of Susan Khalje Couture.

I truly hope this serves as a way to connect to the couture community with frequent posts about topics ranging from exciting (and inspiring) student work; recommended articles, books, and exhibitions; reports from my travels across the country as I teach; technical sewing advice; access to free video tutorials; and the very latest updates on all of my upcoming videos and classes.

Please check in frequently. Welcome to my blog, and I hope you’ll enjoy being a part of Susan Khalje Couture.